For years Putin indicates that there is a red line for him/Russia in the Ukraine. Why? I think the primary reason is NATO … not even the EU. Because with the EU Putin had and has great cooperation plans.*
See Vision Putin : Russia EU free trade zone
And more on this America versus Russia – Putin’s vision is a threat to US strategic interests
But what, in my opinion, is the problem. The EU does not have its own security and defence structure. For that kind of business you end up at NATO … and so at the leader of this alliance, the U.S. And then it immediately becomes a completely different story for Putin and Russia. Because with the U.S. Russia has been “fighting” a new cold war since 1998 (accelerating in 2001 with start of GW Bush government) about power and influence in Europe and the world. The U.S. is emphatically heading for a new containment policy towards Russia and there is no question of truly equivalent cooperation. Russia also fears the offensive military capabilities of the U.S. and willingness to use them (Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2003).
And a picture … with circle and arrows from me … makes it clear why NATO in the Ukraine/Crimea for Putin/Russia is unacceptable … and thus a red line. The narrow land corridor that connects Russia with the Near/Middle East would be “threatened”. Also makes clear why Georgia in the American sphere of influence plus attack-war for Putin was and is also a red line. And why the previous U.S. government (Bush jr.) did so much effort to “close off” that corridor as part of a tightly deployed containment policy in the framework of the Bush doctrine. I think the Cold War in Washington has never really stopped.
*Additions since 2014:
Merkel saw it in 2015 and clearly spoke about it. But saw insufficiently why Russia reacted so allergic to this expansion of the EU and democracy to the east. Underestimate the (evil) role and impact of the U.S. Bushdoctrine and powerplay in this.
Merkel offers Russia free-trade agreement
I see the Bushdoctrine talked about here not as the mainstream American foreign policy. But an more radical nationalistic phase in American foreign policies. So don’t see my hard words on that doctrine/policy/period as my general view on American foreign policy. There were good periods and policies too and I see the U.S. as friend and ally and part of a solution. However, the Democrats and Republicans share the vision of continuing to control and monitor the foreign and security policy of geopolitical and geoeconomic rival the EU through the US leadership role in NATO.
I condemn the Russian annexation of Crimea and (in my opinion) failed annexation attempt in Eastern Ukraine strongly. I think I understand why Russia did this, but strongly condemn they choose this military option in reaction on the US containment policy and coup d’etat in Ukraine. American policy which was partly supported by the EU.
(my peace plan proposal for war Ukraine)